Both the Jazz and the Heat came into Wednesday’s game at Vivint Smart Smart Arena playing their third game in four nights. And their fourth game in six nights. Both were missing key players. Oh, and they had identical records, too.
Everything on paper indicated it ought to be a close matchup — and for most of the night, it was.
Right up until Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson did their thing again.
The high-scoring guards’ latest big efforts sparked Utah to a second-half comeback and its fourth consecutive victory, 116-101.
Mitchell finished with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Clarkson added 21 points (on 8-for-12 shooting), four rebounds and three assists.
Behind their second-half explosion, the Jazz now enter the All-Star break with a 36-18 record.
Naturally, given the 69-point second-half explosion, coach Quin Snyder wanted to focus on the other side of the ball.
“What I liked was our defense,” Snyder said. “When we can defend, we can get out [on the run], and that gives you great rhythm.”
Mitchell got the comeback officially rolling, turning the tide by getting to the hoop over and over again in the third quarter.
Utah was trailing but lingering for most of the game, when Mitchell’s energetic effort sparked a 10-2 run to finally enable the Jazz to surge ahead 75-69 with 2:34 left in the period.
“Aggressive for Donovan means attacking the rim,” Snyder said. “That doesn’t always mean just putting your head down and going. … Usually if you continue to play the right way, things work out for you.”
In the fourth, Clarkson took his turn.
With the Heat threatening to close the gap, the sixth man hit a sequence of shots that perpetually kept the game just out of reach.
From there, the team’s 3-point shooting sealed the deal.
Though Utah came into the game leading the NBA in 3-point percentage, Miami came in holding opponents to the lowest conversion rate in the league. Something had to give, and through the first three quarters, it was advantage Heat, as Utah made just 7 of its first 25 attempts.
That all changed in the final quarter, however, when Utah made 7 of 11 tries to balloon the lead to 15 and effectively put the game away.
In a 2 1/2-minute span deep in the fourth, one trey from Mitchell and two more from Bojan Bogdanovic turned a seven-point Utah advantage into a 15-point lead.
The Jazz finished 14 of 36 from deep for the game.
Mitchell’s All-Star Game compatriot, Rudy Gobert, had another big line — finishing with 16 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. Bogdanovic, meanwhile, posted one of his most well-rounded lines of the season, finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
That slow start was largely attributable to Utah’s early turnover troubles — the team had five in the opening minutes and nine by halftime — which led to 14 Heat points. They finished with just 15 for the game, though, taking care to take better care of the ball after the break.
So, what changed?
“I told them not to turn the ball over anymore — turnovers are bad,” Snyder quipped afterward. “… You’ve gotta work to deliver the ball and improve your spacing. The way we play entails a lot of precision. … I think our guys have done a better job of recognizing where the turnovers are coming from. We want to remain aggressive.”